I’ve been away from my blog for days. My Facebook page has been neglected. I went entire days without Tweeting. And what’s worse, it’s not because I’ve been having fun. It’s because I’ve been sick, sick, sick.
Upon returning from my lovely weekend in D.C., I feel victim to the sniffling-sneezing-congested-headache bug that is making its way around my campus. My students are dropping like flies, and my fellow teachers are posting messages of solidarity on one another’s Facebook pages, comparing notes on symptoms, how long we’ve been sick, and what remedies we are using for treatment.
For the past two days, I’ve been able to do little more than lay in bed or haul my sorry butt to campus, giving half-hearted lectures and mostly sitting in my office with my head on the desk.
But lo and behold, today, the sickness seems to be moving out of my head and down into my chest, which isn’t great, but at least means I can stay upright long enough to blog and make some cider and work on writing the chapters of my book, pages of which are owed to my writing buddy, um, tomorrow.
And at times like this, I am so grateful for a CSA.
When we came home from D.C., we put a whole chicken in the crockpot with oil, salt and pepper, and a lime and a few cloves of garlic in the core. I saved the stock, picked the chicken clean, and threw the whole mess, plus some leftover chicken and vegetable broth and some water, into a pot with some CSA vegetables for chicken soup. It’s like, somehow, I knew that I would be sick as a dog within twenty-four hours. And this was my body’s final attempt to protect me.
Chicken soup, though simple, is such a grand, wonderful dish. I have eaten some really good chicken soup in my day. One of Norfolk’s loveliest little restaurants, Azar’s, serves a darn good chicken soup with big pieces of white meat, chunks of vegetables, and a lightly flavorful broth. Amanda proved her girlfriend chops to me last year when, during a 24-hour bug in our early dating days, she left work, sent me a text asking whether I wanted rice or noodles in my soup (despite my protesting that, really, I was fine, I didn’t want to be a bother, this was so sweet but she didn’t need to leave, really, noodles), and showed up at my door, in Navy uniform, with a bag from Panera with chicken noodle soup inside. She sat with me while I ate it, making me fall a little more in love with her.
And one of the best chicken soups I ever had was from my friend Claudia. During my thesis year in graduate school, I got a cold that seemed to last about two months. I could not kick that thing. And at the beginning of it, when I was reeling from the shock of my body’s betrayal during such an important time with so many deadlines, Claudia brought me two jars of homemade chicken soup to my office. This was the good stuff: big pieces of chicken, a layer of fat at the top of the jar that melted into a beautiful dreamy broth when I heated it up, big chunks of veggies floating throughout. She joked that it wasn’t kosher, so it didn’t have the “Jew magic” to it, but she also pointed out the real truth of chicken soup: the magic is in the love that someone shows when they make it (or bring it) to you.
I love chicken soup. I love its simplicity. I love its health benefits. I love the way it makes you feel a little bit better when you’re sick. And I love that it’s a way of showing love that spans across our culture. Someone may not be able to do what I really wish, which is to remove my head, run it through the dishwasher, massage Vaseline into the nasal passages, and then put it back on my shoulders, clean and sanitized and healthy. (TMI? Sorry.) But someone can bring me chicken soup, and I’m lucky to have people in my life who do bring me just that: warm, delicious, simple, nourishing, magical chicken soup.
Sick Day Chicken Soup
This recipe is a basic guide that can be tweaked according to preferences, tastes, and general convenience. Chicken soup is a forgiving dish, easily adjusted and open to changes.
Meat from one whole chicken (approximately; we used some for tacos first)
4-6 cups chicken stock/broth, vegetable stock, or water (using whatever you have on hand)
2-3″ fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 red potatoes, washed and chopped roughly into 1″ pieces
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped roughly (I like to quarter mine, and then cut those quarter slices in half)
2-3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
1 small handful fresh parsley, long stems removed
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Big pinch of dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1. In a large stock pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes, until just beginning to soften. Add carrots, potatoes, ginger slices, and garlic and cook 3-5 minutes more.
2. Add liquid (stock, water, broth, or a combination thereof) and stir to combine. Allow to come to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-high, cooking 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are about halfway to fork tender.
3. Add chicken, parsley, and green beans and cook another 10-15 minutes, at which point potatoes should be fork tender. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste. Add lemon juice.
4. Serve with crusty bread and love. Watch out for the ginger pieces; not sure if you really want to eat those or not. But if you do, have at it!
CSA vegetables used: green beans, potatoes, and garlic
A note about flexibility: You may have noticed that this recipe does not include celery, where that is usually a staple of chicken soups. My girl doesn’t like celery at all, so I left it out. That’s the beauty of chicken soup: you can tailor it to your likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and/or whatever you have in the house.
A note about ginger slices: I love ginger when I’m sick. Lemon ginger tea is the best thing ever. And I like infusing my soup with ginger slices. But I don’t want to eat them. If you don’t want to either, try wrapping them in a bit of cheesecloth or a disposable tea satchel and adding them with the liquid. It’ll make them easier to fish out before serving.